Monday, November 29, 2010

Physical Activity For All: Examining Cultural Competency

WHAT: As a professional at an exercise and fitness center, there is very little multicultural resources, training, or guidelines available to follow in the organization.  As a corporate fitness center, it is important to promote health and well-being to the diverse group of individuals who hold a membership or are employed at the fitness center.  The professionals working at the fitness center must utilize their own knowledge and resources in their community to provide an optimal exercise setting for all individuals.  Important considerations include guidelines for staff members, program materials, and developing interpersonal relationships with members at the fitness center.
SO WHAT: Gill and Williams (2008) describe cultural competency as an ability of the professional or organization to provide valuable programs that reflect diverse physical activity settings and activities.  The organization must assure to not exclude people by gender, sex, race, culture, etc. in their classes and fitness activities.  Although not every single fitness class or program will appeal to all audiences equally, it is important to provide a diverse amount of classes that captures various audiences, ages, male/female, etc.  Bias can be introduced in fitness centers because many individuals are regular exercisers and in good health and shape.  It is important to openly promote all individuals to the fitness center, regardless of physical shape or limitations they may have due to disability or disease.  This topic is thoroughly discussed by Gill and Williams (2008) and is termed as “physicality” which describes limiting participation based on one’s skill, fitness, ability, and appearance.  They mention that the most excluded groups in exercise settings include obese individuals and diabetics.  Since no established guidelines regarding cultural competence and acceptance of diversity existed previously, the fitness center professionals must create established guidelines and educational materials both for employees and fitness members.  Employees must recognize not only their culturally values and beliefs, but biases as well.  They must have respect for co-workers and clients differing values and beliefs that may not reflect their beliefs.
NOW WHAT: The most important way to promote cultural competency will be having a diverse group of individuals employed at the fitness center.  Having a variety of employees encourages diversity and brings more knowledge to cultures and beliefs.  For example, one employee may have received extensive training and experience working with individuals from Japan while another had experience working with Native Americans.  Exercise instructors will come from various backgrounds, cultures, races, height, weight, and be accepting of each participant’s beliefs.  Specific to gender, exercise has shown to positively associate with competence in women (Gill and Williams, 2008).  When a member with a unique culture requests a personal trainer, they will be assigned to a trainer that has some knowledge of their cultural beliefs, but can also learn and appreciate their unique cultural background.  Marketing materials used to promote new programs will model both men and women of varying shapes, races, cultures, etc. to promote cultural competency within the fitness center.  Current and new hires will be required to complete a cultural competency, sexual harassment, and overall fitness center guideline modules; with a quiz following each section to assure they understand the educational material presented to them.  Research by Fasting, Brackenridge, and Walseth (2006) on sexual harassment in female athletes concluded that based on frequent occurrences of harassment, there are existing educational needs and gaps within policy regarding sexual harassment. The exercise classes should be diverse and appeal to multiple groups of individuals.  For example, to show cultural appreciation, an African dance class will be offered for individuals that hold unique cultural values and are more comfortable in group settings rather than individual ones.  Water aerobics classes will be offered for low-impact exercises that may be required for individuals that are older, overweight, or have certain disabilities that limit their mobility in other settings. 
CONCLUSION: The exercise and fitness center professionals were in need of developing a culturally competent environment that promoted the health and well-being of all individuals; however didn’t currently have internal resources or guidelines to follow regarding cultural awareness.  Professionals recognize that diversity and cultural competence is an important aspect in a fitness center and needed to develop guidelines and materials appropriate for their fitness center population.  Assuring that employees represented some forms of diversity through gender, age, culture, race, height/weight, etc. was the first established guideline they assured was present in their organization.  Next, current employees as well as new hires are now required to complete an educational assessment online on cultural competency, sexual harassment, and overall guidelines established by the exercise and fitness center.  Finally, group exercise class settings are the main target for providing diverse classes and settings that appeal to diverse groups of individuals.  These basic approaches provide the structure for beginning to adopt cultural competency and diversity guidelines in an exercise and fitness center that previously had no resources or guidelines available to utilize.
Fasting, K., Brackenridge, C., & Walseth, K. (2007). Women athletes’ personal responses to sexual harassment in sport. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 19, 419-433.

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Exercise Partner Reliance: Social Support in a Senior Exercise Class

WHAT: Participants in a senior center exercise program complete three, 1-hour sessions with an instructor each week.  Both individual and group instruction is utilized by the instructor during the exercise sessions.  The instructor is well aware that social support can encourage participation and success in their classes with the seniors.  It is the responsibility of the instructor to promote social support throughout the group exercise participants as well as demonstrating a socially supportive environment themselves as an exercise instructor.  The instructor believes that utilizing social support through the group will enhance individual’s performance with exercise while their social support as the instructor will increase participation and exercise performance in the group as a whole.

SO WHAT: It is important for the exercise instructor to encourage social support among participants as well as provide social support.  Courneya and McAuley (1995) define social support as information and help someone receives at both the individual and group level.  It may improve exercise performance and Gill and Williams (2008) note that the “quality of support is more than important than quantity of social contacts.”  It is important that exercise participants utilize social support contacts within the exercise class to enhance performance and influence continual participation.  In a study reviewed by Gill and Williams (2008) explain that social support is able to increase self-efficacy for individuals in an exercise program.  The instructor needs to find ways to encourage social support within the exercise group to help increase self-efficacy.

NOW WHAT: The instructor can measure their groups social support by administering the Social Support Questionnaire (Sarason, Levine, Basham, & Sarason, 1983).  Results from the questionnaire will help establish whether or not group members feel social contacts and support are available to them currently and will give the instructor advice on how to provide social support.  Gill and Williams (2008) describe Rosenfeld and Richman’s model of ways to provide social support such as emotional support and task appreciation.  To promote social support among group members, the instructor can have participants work in groups of 2 during certain exercises and encourage them to appraise and complement one another for their exercise efforts.  In these same groups, the instructor can challenge participants to rely on each other to attend all exercise sessions with their partner.  This is a way to provide emotional support among the group because they will know they may be letting a partner down by not attending.  Encouraging group members to attend exercise classes and pair with a partner that shares similar health or exercise backgrounds will also increase emotional support among individuals (Gill & Williams, 2008).  Courneya and McAuley (1995) describe guidance as another form of support.  This is the method the instructor will utilize to increase social support among the whole group.  The instructor will provide advice in regards to correct exercise form, exercise-related questions, and advice for exercise intensity, duration, amount of weight to lift, etc.  They will also provide the participants with relevant information regarding the exercise class and the benefits of exercise.  Within their scope of knowledge, the instructor will relay health benefiting information from exercise and types of work-outs to complete in a group or individual setting. 

CONCLUSION: The exercise instructor in the senior center has success with having healthy participants who exercise regularly 3 times per week.  Now the instructor must encourage and promote social support both at the individual and group level in their exercise class.  Quality of the support will be stressed over the quantity of support available to participants.  Previous research shows that social support is able to increase one’s self-efficacy during an exercise program.  After utilizing the SSQ, the instructor will have baseline knowledge of how the group perceives and understands their social support networks.  The instructor will split group members into pairs and encourage appraisal and complementing of one another during exercise sessions.  A buddy system will be implemented to promote emotional support by encouraging both partners to attend and rely on each other during each exercise class.  Finally, the instructor will utilize guidance as a social support domain to give exercise advice and provide educational knowledge to group members.  With these approaches, this exercise class will develop social support at both the individual and group level.


Courneya, K. S., & McAuley, E.(1995). Reliability and discriminant validity of subjective norm, social support, and cohesion in an exercise setting. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 17, 325-337.

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL:Human Kinetics.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Modeling Mom and Dad: Engaging in PA

WHAT: The park and recreation department is organizing a program to increase their membership.  They’ve established that the focus will be on family members and assuring that programs are readily available to all families.  The “Families Together and Active” program is intended to influence positive attitudes with exercise and show improvement in performance abilities among the participants.  The director insists the programs are creative and available to families, so it must be presented to the director before being implemented.

SO WHAT: The program must aim for providing a positive social environment that will make families comfortable and welcomed.  As stated by the director, the program must be available to families; therefore appropriate timing is a key aspect.  Assuming that most parents hold jobs during the day and children are in school, this program should be held in the evening time, or perhaps on a weekend day.  Also, it will be important to offer the exercise classes in the program more than once during the week, and possibly at different times.  This way, it provides more opportunities for families to participate and have the program available to them.  One of the goals was to influence positive attitudes with physical activity, and involving families is one positive approach to this goal.  Gill and Williams (2008) discuss Eccles findings that attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs can be influenced by significant others.  Family participation in this exercise program will foster these influences regarding physical activity and progress toward this goal.  Influencing positive attitudes toward physical activity usually will relate to the values held by an individual.  Weiss (2004) explains that observational learning theory is one explanation for whether or not children are physically active.  It is suggested that when parents’ are physically active, their children will be as well.  Parental behaviors, values, and beliefs have been shown to be determining factors for their children’s beliefs, values, and behaviors as well (Gill & Williams, 2008).  Research on competence with engaging in physical activity has a social influence aspect.  Parents that are competent perceive their children as competent and engage in PA will provide positive influence for their children to also be competent with PA (Gill & Williams, 2008).  The exercise instructor must also provide an atmosphere for families that are motivating and energetic.  Providing social support is one aspect Gill and Williams (2008) use to describe an instructor who is likely to retain exercise participants and influence families to continue exercise classes.  This type of atmosphere required of the instructor is one way to achieve the program goal of increasing membership.

NOW WHAT: This exercise program will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 6:00pm and 7:30pm.  A third exercise class will be held Saturday’s at 10:00am.  This schedule provides participants with five different opportunities to engage in the exercise program.  The involvement of families will be one of the supporting tools for enhancing attitudes toward physical activity.  Modeling by the instructor (and adults) will be performed to show participants how to properly perform the exercises in the class.  The instructor will also use verbal cues with participants when modeling an exercise or counting aloud the time spent on a stretch or muscle-specific activity.  One example of counting could be a biceps curl where the instructor does 4 counts up and 4 counts down with the weight.  Participants will eventually need to remember certain modeling given by the instructor in the exercise class.  Gill & Williams (2008) suggest that imagery and verbal codes may help individuals retain information modeled by an instructor.  The exercise sessions will be group oriented to assure families can participate and be physically active together.  Some of the basic exercises will include: jumping jacks, push-ups, abdominal crunches, and lunges.  After the instructor has modeled and verbally cued each exercise, the group will complete the exercises together.  During subsequent sessions in the program, the instructor will ask family members to recall the exercises completed the previous week and encourage imagery to help them retain information.  When the instructor finds individuals or groups correctly performing an exercise, he will verbally congratulate or compliment them.  The expectancy-value model explains that teachers and parents behaviors can influence motivation of children (Weiss, 2004).  Therefore, modeling can be shown not only by the instructor, but by participants as well.  This will be an important aspect for children, who will likely look at their parents behaviors and model their parents. 

CONCLUSION: The park and recreation department wants to implement a program targeted at family members and hopes to create positive attitudes and increase PA performance.  They also hope to increase membership this year.  Simply involving families in this program is one way to help influence positive attitudes toward PA, as long as parent’s values and beliefs toward PA are positive.  The exercise instructor must be socially supportive toward all participants.  Before jumping into a new exercise session, the instructor will model the exercise and encourage participants to find ways to recall such exercises through imagery or verbal cues.  When the instructor provides positive feedback to participants, then participants can also become models for exercises they are competent with.  Children are likely to become motivated when they view their parent’s behaviors and attitudes toward the program.  The five available times for the program throughout the week should assure enough availability to all the families that wish to engage in PA and participate in this program. 

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

M.R., Weiss. (2004). Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective
         Morgantown, W.V.: Fitness Information Technology, Inc.